By Amy Kaufman
10:51 AM CDT, April 21, 2013
After suffering a couple of box-office disappointments, Tom Cruise posted his first No. 1 film opening in years at the multiplex this weekend.
The 50-year-old's science fiction flick "Oblivion" was the only new movie to hit theaters this weekend and easily claimed the top spot, debuting with a respectable $38.2 million, according to an estimate from distributor Universal Pictures. That figure includes screenings from Thursday evening, when the movie began playing in many locations at 7 p.m.
The film's opening is a win for Cruise, especially considering the movie did not benefit from 3-D ticket surcharges and was not part of a franchise. The actor is also coming off a tough year at the box office, as his two 2012 releases proved to be lackluster.
The musical "Rock of Ages," in which he starred as an oft-shirtless debauched rock 'n' roll star, flopped with just $56.4 million worldwide. His action flick "Jack Reacher" ended up in solid shape with its $216.6 million global tally -- but 63% of its sales came from abroad, where studios ultimately recoup far less of a percentage of the box office.
“An original concept did this well? It’s like we’re in church and bells are going off,” joked Nikki Rocco, Universal’s president of domestic distribution. “Tom Cruise is charismatic and a great actor, and people recognize that.”
If "Oblivion" is to be a strong domestic performer, it will have to generate strong word of mouth -- a potential challenge, given that opening-weekend audiences assigned the film an average grade of B-, according to market research firm CinemaScore.
The movie attracted mostly older men, as 74% of the crowd were over the age of 25 and 57% were men. In exit polls, moviegoers listed Cruise as their primary reason for attending "Oblivion," followed by the sci-fi genre, according to Universal.
Rocco insisted that she wasn’t worried about the CinemaScore hurting grosses in the coming weeks, saying that the grade came in on Friday evening “when there was a lot of diversion” from the capture of a Boston marathon bombings suspect. The city -- which represents about 1% of moviegoing nationwide -- was on lockdown on Friday as police searched for the suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. However, after Tsarnaev’s arrest late Friday, ticket sales for “Oblivion” in the area jumped 44% from Friday to Saturday, Rocco said.
The film, which the studio said it co-financed with Elliot Inc. for $120 million, was already playing in most international countries last weekend. The movie collected an additional $33.7 million abroad this weekend from 60 foreign markets, raising its total abroad to $112 million.
Like last weekend, the movie again did best in Russia, where it sold $3.5 million worth of tickets. The picture has yet to open in China and Japan.
Meanwhile, the weekend's runner-up position went to the Jackie Robinson biopic "42," which saw its A+ CinemaScore pay off as ticket sales dropped just 34% to $18 million. After 10 days in theaters, the $40-million baseball drama has already collected $54.1 million and should end being a hit for distributor Warner Bros.
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